About this project

The Schools We Need: Lessons Learned from Harlem is lead by Mellon Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research Faculty Leader Terri N. Watson (The City College ofNew York, School of Education, Department of Leadership and Human Development). A Harlem Native, Dr. Watson's research examines effective school leadership and is aimed to improve the educational outcomes and life chances of historically excluded and underserved students and families.

The recent calls to desegregate New York City’s public schools reify the fact that equity, social justice, and access to meaningful schooling continue to be a significant problem for Black and Hispanic children and their families. The Schools We Need: Lessons Learned from Harlem, was inspired by nine mothers who, in 1958, successfully desegregated several public schools located on Manhattan’s upper west side. They also challenged deficit paradigms of Black motherhood and communities of Color. The Schools We Need will offer a series of ‘living room conversations’ that centers the voices, perspectives, and lived experiences of Harlem’s long-standing activist-residents. The ultimate goal of this project is to highlight the ways in which the institution of Black motherhood has transformed public education and to foster agency, community, and discourse around New York City’s desegregation efforts.

Events, Articles, Research & Scholarship:

Creating the Beloved Community with Dr. Terri Watson
Wed, Sep 16, 2020, at 7:30 PM



Please join the Ph.D. Program in Urban Education for the launch of their Fall 2020 Colloquium Speaker Series.This year's Colloquium is guided by a focus on the global Black Lives Matter movement and an inquiry into Restorative Justice practices within our program community. The Urban Education program at The Graduate Center, CUNY is honored to welcome Dr. Terri Watson as the first guest lecturer. Dr. Watson's talk, entitled, "Creating the Beloved Community" will orient, enrich, and inspire the conversations that will continue in Urban Education and beyond this semester. Click here for more information and to register for this free event. This event will be ASL interpreted.


#SaySomething - The Importance of Black Women Teachers for Black Girls

Dr. Terri N. Watson (front center) with students in her 7th grade class at Junior High School 45, including Dr. Gina Charles (front, to Dr. Watson's right). Image description: A Black young woman and eight Black and brown pre-teen and teenage girls sit close together on a reddish-orange staircase, posing and smiling for the camera. They are dressed casually, wearing jeans and youthful fashions of the mid-1990s including flannel and overalls.


In this interview "The Importance of Black Women Teachers for Black Girls," Dr. Terri N. Watson and Dr. Gina Charles discuss the vital role that Black women teachers play for Black girls, including the formative influence of their early relationship as junior high school teacher and student as well as a wider conversation about how Black women teachers provide "mirrors and windows," through which Black girls can see themselves in leadership roles and flourish in their educations, career paths, and lives.

Dr. Terri N. Watson and Dr. Gina Charles



A Love Letter to Babette Edwards: Harlem’s “Othermother”

Babette Edwards


Read "A Love Letter to Babette Edwards: Harlem's Othermother" on the Gotham Center for New York City, in which Dr. Terry Watson explores the life and education activism of Dr. Babette Edwards, a parent activist, educational advocate and community leader (a noted pioneer in the movement for community control), who steadfastly believes in Harlem’s children and has spent a lifetime fighting for them and their education.

"Importantly, Edwards’ efforts on behalf of Harlem’s children reinforces Black women's inherent value and sense of humanity in spaces that have historically "mis-educated" children of color. My conversations with Dr. Edwards as well as what I’ve learned from her dissertation, archives, and on-going work in Harlem’s public schools affirm this truth.

The life and life work of Dr. Babette Edwards reminds us that Harlem’s children deserve the very best teachers, school leaders, and educational opportunities. As an education researcher and one of Harlem’s daughters, I am grateful for Dr. Edwards’ contributions to Harlem and its public schools. History often reminds us of the lessons we have yet to learn and as Dr. Edwards reminded me, "We have to keep on keeping on!" Thank you for your light, Dr. Edwards, I love you! Harlem loves you!"

-Dr Terri Watson

More About Terri N. Watson


Terri N. Watson
is an Associate Professor in the Department of Leadership and Human Development at The City College of New York. A Harlem native, her research examines effective school leadership and is aimed to improve the educational outcomes and life chances of historically excluded and underserved students and families. Dr. Watson is the guest editor for a special issue of the Journal of Educational Administration and History (Taylor & Francis Group) titled, A Seat at the Table: Examining the Impact, Ingenuity, and Leadership Practices of Black Woman and Girls in PK – 20 Contexts (Publication Date: Summer 2020).

Dr. Watson’s scholarship may be found in the following journals and books: the Journal of the Center for Policy Analysis & Research (Inaugural Edition), Urban Education, The Journal of Negro Education, the Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, The School Community Journal, Leadership and Policy in Schools, and in the books, Whiteucation: Privilege, Power, and Prejudice in School and Society (Routledge), Racially and Ethnically Diverse Women Leading Education: A World View (Emerald Publishing), and Educational Leadership and Music: Lessons for Tomorrow’s School Leaders (Information Age Publishing).

Faculty Seminar Leader